Union Avenue Opera’s 29th season

    Union Avenue Opera
    By Melanie Steen 

    And that’s a wrap! Union Avenue Opera is closing out their 29th season of bringing beautiful opera music to St. Louis audiences. Scott Schoonover was music director at Union Avenue Christian Church when he came up with the idea to form the Opera. 

    “It’s been a gradual process of growth to get to where we are right now,” says Founder Scott Schoonover. “It’s been and exciting road for sure.” 

    After nearly three decades, the opera still holds all of its performances inside the church. Their season finale, Ragtime, is the biggest production of the summer. 

    “We also have a ton of local people in the cast,” says Schoonover. “This current cast everyone is local I think except for one or two people, and it’s pretty amazing.” 

    23-year-old Javi Ojeda is one of the youngest performers with the opera. After doing their young artists program for a few season, it’s his first paying gig with the opera. 

    “Everybody is here to just share in everything,” says Javi Ojeda. “We all want each other to succeed because we want to put on the best show. And it’s a great environment to be in because then you just grow as a performer.” 

    “It’s a really heavy show but the ensemble is incredible,” says performer Liya Khaimova. “And getting to meet everyone and sing with them is such a fulfilling experience.” 

    Liya Khaimova is an Atlanta transplant, and is wrapping up her 4th season with the Opera. She says Schoonover has a unique vision with each and every show. 

    “He is such a supportive leader,” says Khaimova. “He keeps us all to a high professional standard, which I love.” 

    29-year-old Jazmine Olwalia is a visiting artist from Pittsburgh. She tried out for the opera during an audition in New York City. From the very first note, it is easy to see why she landed the job. 

    “I want to continue doing this for as long as I can, till the wheels fall off,” says Olwalia. “This is what I believe I was put on the earth to do.” 

    Early on, she says she didn’t see that many women who looked like her performing opera. But she pressed on anyway. 

    “It was definitely something I had to struggle with,” says Olwalia. “Cause I didn’t really see myself as a plus size black woman on stage. And so, it’s been really nice having a lot more girls look like myself in this industry.” 

    The Union Avenue Opera will hold auditions for the 2024 season in St. Louis and in New York City in January. Details on this auditions will be posted in September. To learn more, visit their website: https://unionavenueopera.org/.